Thailand was seen as exemplary and an important factor of regional stability before a coup d’état toppled then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006. At the moment the country is suffering from political difficulties which has already shown a significant potential for violent escalation. This has increased the need for stabilizing reforms in the sector of human rights protection. The consolidation of democracy and the rule of law will be the essential condition to guarantee the protection of human rights in the future. With its commitment the Hanns Seidel Foundation wants to contribute to the improvement of the rule of law in Thailand.
Since shortcomings in the rule of law pose a serious problem on the local level, legal training for judges, lawyers and government officers will be provided with a special focus on the provinces. In cooperation with the German-Southeast Asian Center of Excellence for Public Policy and Good Governance (CPG) of Thammasat University (Bangkok, Thailand), we will offer training modules on techniques of law application, conduct of a case, administrative work, legal ethics and law schooling. These programs will be carried out mainly in Thailand, but also in Laos, which exhibits significant deficits in the aforementioned areas as well.
The second area of interest is security law and policy. Training courses on security enforcement by the police, security enforcement by the military and security policy as well as conflict resolution will be organized cooperatively with the Institute for Security Law and Policy of Thammasat University. Course participants will come from the sector of security and law enforcement. Our primary goal is to promote the development of a common identity among members of Thai law enforcement agencies based on the respect for fundamental human rights, analogous to the concept of “Staatsbürger in Uniform“ (citizen in uniform), the guiding principle of the German armed forces.
The main part of our work will deal with the training of police and military instructors on the national and provincial level.
Despite further economic development, the gap between rich and poor in Southeast Asia. Significant hurdles exist for some social classes, preventing their participation on the market. Hanns Seidel Foundation attempts to overcome these deficits in regulatory policy by increasing the competitiveness of smallholders through the creation and support of cooperatives in rural Thailand and Laos.
The rural areas of Thailand and Laos are underdeveloped compared to the general shape of the economy in these countries. Yet most people are directly or indirectly participating in the rural economy and are thus dependent on the development level of these areas. In Thailand, 70% of the population works in rural areas, in Laos 80%. In addition to agriculture small-scale manufacturing plays an important role as well. The rural-urban dichotomy is reflected by the differences in mean income. The gap between rural and urban areas is widening continously. In Thailand 50% of the national income is generated by 20% of the population, mainly living in cities; in Laos, 4/5 of the people, working in agricultural sectors, generate only 40% of the gross national product.
In Thailand, cutbacks in government support programs for rural areas contributed to the political turmoil affecting the country in the recent past. The “Red Shirt” uprising in 2010 was a sign for the growing unrest among the people of the rural Northeast , who protested against the increasing economic inequality in the country.
Hanns Seidel Foundation’s projects in Thailand and Laos aim at boosting the competitiveness of small business enterprises and cooperatives to increase the income and standard of living in rural areas. Hanns Seidel foundation is able to look back at past success in this field and intends to continue its cooperation with the relevant ministries and organizations of the partner countries. Just recently the promotion of the development of cooperatives has been declared a central priority in development cooperation by the President of Laos.
The majority of the rural population engages in subsistence level farming or works in small-scale manufacturing, earning a very low income. It is our goal to offer these people better opportunities to organize, professionalize and found cooperatives in order to strengthen the economy, create jobs and give them a better long-term perspective.
On another level – societal and personal – this process is intended to contribute to greater social acknowledgement, greater self-confidence, more independence and a higher degree of political participation, strengthening the spirit of democracy.
Hanns Seidel Foundation promotes programs which help people to organize and professionalize, in order to increase their competitiveness on the market. These programs convey the skills and knowledge necessary to allow the attendants to improve their technical-industrial skills (production methods, environmentally-balanced production) and business administration (market analysis, business credits, pricing, marketing, accounting, management, leadership). In addition to that, they will be informed about cooperatives, most importantly their organizational structure as well as recent developments in the sector. The actual content of training sessions will be determined by local demand, for example in the different sectors of agriculture, animal husbandry, cloth production or food production. The information acquired by attending the training program is supposed to be directly practically applicable.
Outdated farming methods like shifting cultivation and illegal logging threaten the sensitive ecosystem of Laos, with further damage being caused by increasing industrial development. 17 regions have been designated as National Parks by the Laotian government, nevertheless they represent only 10% of the country’s total area. In addition to that, no specific ministry tasked with environmental protection exists as of today. Only a National Environment Authority participates in the improvement of environmental law through the introduction of bills. Other problems, only indirectly related to environmental protection, like corruption in connection with illegal logging, drug cultivation and the development of tourism complicate the legislative process.
To effectively tackle these complex problems, Hanns Seidel Foundation provides missing expertise for Laos in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Our project includes training for the staff of the National Environment Authority, for environmental experts and for members of parliament. If there is demand, experts recruited with the support from the Foreign Ministry of Singapore, which has been in the fields of technical cooperation a valuable and competent partner in the past, can also be called in to carry out specialized training. Topics of the training courses will be the preparation of bills and the implementation of environmental protection.